Herbin, Auguste (1882-1960) - 1925 The Red House (Sotheby's New York, 2007)
Oil on canvas; 116 by 89 cm.
Born in Quiévy, Nord, he studied drawing at the École des Beaux-Arts de Lille, from 1898 to 1901, when he settled in Paris. The initial influence of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism visible in paintings that he sent to the Salon des Indépendants in 1906 gradually gave way to an involvement with Cubism after his move in 1909 to the Bateau-Lavoir studios, where he met Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris; he was also encouraged by his friendship with Wilhelm Uhde. His work was exhibited in the same room as that of Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes and Fernand Léger in the Salon des Indépendants of 1910, and in 1912 he participated in the influential Section d'Or exhibition.
After producing his first abstract paintings in 1917, Herbin came to the attention of Léonce Rosenberg who, after World War I, made him part of the group centered on his Galerie de l'Effort Moderne and exhibited his work there on several occasions in 1918 and 1921. Herbin's radical reliefs of simple geometric forms in painted wood, such as Colored Wood Relief (1921; Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne), challenged not only the status of the easel painting but also traditional figure–ground relationships. The incomprehension that greeted these reliefs and related furniture designs, even from those critics most favorably disposed towards Cubism, was such that until 1926 or 1927 he followed Rosenberg's advice to return to a representational style. Herbin himself later disowned landscapes, still-lifes and genre scenes of this period, such as Bowls Players (1923; Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne), in which the objects were depicted as schematized volumes.